Filled with idealism and hope when he first left his village, he now spends his days and nights dodging stray bullets and bombs, foraging scraps of food to feed himself and his men. Quan seeks comfort in childhood memories as he tries to sort out his conflicting feelings of patriotism and disillusionment. Then, given the chance to return to his home, Quan undertakes a physical and mental journey that brings him face to face with figures from his past—his angry father, his childhood sweetheart, his boyhood friends now maimed or dead—and ultimately to the shattering reality that his innocence has been irretrievably lost in the wake of the war.
Duong Thu Huong, author of Paradise of the Blind and Novel Without a Name both from Penguin is an advocate of human rights and democratic political reform, and was expelled from the Communist Party and imprisoned without trial in …. More about Duong Thu Huong.
Novel Without a Name – Duong Thu Huong
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See all books by Duong Thu Huong. About Duong Thu Huong Duong Thu Huong, author of Paradise of the Blind and Novel Without a Name both from Penguin is an advocate of human rights and democratic political reform, and was expelled from the Communist Party and imprisoned without trial in …. Product Details. There was once a kite that dipped and swayed in the blue of the sky, our dreams reeling in the same space And there is the earth, this mud where the flesh rots, where eyes decompose.
These arms, these legs that crunch in the jaws of the boars. The souls ulcerated and foul from killing, the bodies s Lovesick doves cooed all day in the bamboo. The souls ulcerated and foul from killing, the bodies so starved for tenderness that they haunt stables in search of pleasure. There is this gangrene that eats at the heart This is the first book I've read that is wholly concerned with the Vietnam War. It was likely simple procrastination that birthed the mission to have my first literature experience set in complete opposition to the mythos of the US, the endless me me me of protests and veterans and yet another tale of isolated invaders making a far away country their Agent Orange playground of honored atrocity.
People suffered, yes, people died, yes, but these people could escape. Those who feel I'm belittling, look at the wealth of white-gaze narratives and monuments and politics on one end. Then make your way over. Orangutans are almost human. There's no tastier flesh. Two, the author is a woman, one of three survivors of forty after setting off at twenty years of age, and the first scene is of female bodies with the remains of breasts and genitals strewn around their worm-ridden corpses.
Three, none of this matters, but such a rare perspective does deserve our full attention. It's like dreaming. That's what it's like when you plunge into a forest. You can call and scream all you like; no one can hear you.
Novel without a name
Bear in mind that this is the story of a winner. Bear in mind at all times that this is the story of a soldier whose hope has bred with their despair for far too long. Always remember that this is just one of the usual youths plumped up by the idealogues for the slaughter, for whom it took ten years of mishaps of death and decay on a nightmare landscape to reach the nickname of 'Chief' and the insanity to show for it.
Fighting and dying; two acts, the same indescribable beauty of the war. Suddenly I remembered my mother's savage, heartrending cry, her face bathed in sweat, the horrible spasm that had disfigured her, and then, on that same, horribly twisted face, the radiance of the smile born with a child's cry, when she saw his tiny red legs beat the air Barbaric beauty of life, of creation.
It had slipped away, dissolved in the myriad memories of childhood. I was seized with terror. No one can bathe in two different streams at the same time. Me, my friends, we had lived this war for too long, steeped ourselves for too long in the beauty of all its moments of fire and blood. Would it still be possible, one day, for us to go back, to rediscover our roots, the beauty of creation, the rapture of a peaceful life? Fortunately for us, there is a mercy the soul of someone utterly sick with blood spilled for an ideal, and so we don't mind being enmeshed in the memorial swamp of this "gook" as much.
Or perhaps we do, for we don't want to hear of forbearance of raping out of concern for the eventual danger of pregnant labor, we don't want to know about what horrors of flora and fauna will be birthed out of a healthy sprinkling of mortar and military grade herbicide, we don't want to see the blonde-haired blue-eyed as an unnatural invader after all this respect and courage and love of the other side, a side with its own measure of brave people and unfeeling corruption.
You don't need Communism for an all but are you sure? Soylent Green extraction of the many by the few. You just need humanity, greed, their inherent love for lies, all of them ubiquitous, all of them wherever you may lay your weary head.
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You see, the people, they do exist from time to time, but they're only a shadow. When they need rice, the people are the buffalo that pulls the plow. When they need soldiers, they cover the people with armor, put guns in the people's hands. When all is said and done, at the festivals, when it comes time for the banquets, they put the people on an alter, and feed them incense and ashes. But the real food, that's always for them. But you can find out for yourself.
Revolution, like love, blooms and then withers. But revolution rots much faster than love, 'comrade. View all 13 comments. Jan 23, Zanna rated it it was amazing Recommended to Zanna by: Aubrey. Shelves: favourites , year-reading-women , translated. We might look at it this way: one of the areas of life from which female voices are sorely absent is the war front. There are relatively few soldierly memoirs, fictionalised or otherwise, by women. Duong Thu Huong fought in the war she describes, yet she chooses to take the perspective of a man, Quan, who is living in the blur of transitions from young to middle-aged, from idealism to disillusionment through the dark tunnel of a long, grinding conflict.
Initially I was disappointed by her decisio We might look at it this way: one of the areas of life from which female voices are sorely absent is the war front. Initially I was disappointed by her decision, but very quickly I realised that I was wrong to be, since she brings to Quan's perspective a focus that runs counter to the notions of masculinity, particularly as imagined through military conflict, in my culture, emphasising the web of personal, deeply felt connections with family, friends old and new in his sorrow-stained world, his deep capacity for empathy and his susceptibility to communion with the landscape and reflection on emotional relationships, interpersonal and between people and land, nation and political movements.
The result is a moody, moving, curiously light novel, in which constant sorrow like tirelessly falling rain is balanced by the warmth of friendship and sensuousness. If you hate war literature, perhaps try this anyway. What made me feel a sustaining comfort in reading this was that the relationships between soldiers everywhere is one of deep trust - how important this is! When Quan is lost in a wooded valley, a dead man's spirit calls to him knowing he can help; the spirit trusts him and he can be trusted.
When he almost dies of starvation and heatstroke, a child is able to revive him with produce from the land; young rice porridge, honey, tea made from the same herbs the soldiers use for camouflage. The land is on the side of its children. Bien, Quan's old friend, mad in a pile of filth, is healed and sane the moment his friend comes for him. Quan returns to his home village.
He remembers his mother with love, has none for his father. Yet he draws strength from deep roots in community. Gifts speak kindly. Age is counted from conception 'the first year in the belly'. Quan dreams often of his village, another life 'no one can step in two streams at once' the war is 'indescribably beautiful', so that he fears he will not know how to live in peace.
And I trust him Quan is so pleasant, gently, kind, caring, humane. A fellow soldier, Hung, is his psychopathic alter-ego. Quan understands him, fears him, recognises in Hung's lack of it what makes him who he is: the love of others and for others. Many of his duties are pleasant for wherever he goes he takes pleasure in people and in helping them, and he remains inexhaustibly sensitive to beauty and emotion. He laments loss and death with genuine grief, mourning men and their talents, feeling the anguish of mothers and fathers and sweethearts; no violence is numbly witnessed here, every blow and cut and pang raises a response, a wound.
Quan's talent is clear; he is a poet, even if he writes no verses. This is a novel of such warmth it makes murder unthinkable. War is an outrage against a spirit like Quan's, yet bitterly he goes on, dreaming layers of his own past, warming to joy in sweet sunlight and in the pleasures of food and talk and memory.
One late dream visitation is an unknown ancestor who weeps for him, has an enigmatic message that Quan rejects in irritation and confusion. This encounter coincides with Quans disillusionment at the hands of a younger soldier, the most significant development in his character.
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In the light of this, the 'wraith's' comment about 'triumphal arches' takes on a new meaning I think. Quan mixes up his ancestor's urging with the Party's mythology; both seem to be trying to extract life and effort from the people in the name of worthless, illusory glory. But when the image of the Party shatters, Quan will have to find a new meaning for the words and tears of the ghost: what triumph can he and his comrades really reach? What arching legacy would he bestow, given the choice?
It's his coming to maturity that makes this question urgent, yet leaves it open. The text's meandering, cycling, flat structure mirrors the monotony of the long conflict. There are no climaxes; even the fabular omen of the lynx brings undramatised suffering and death. Hardship and grief are as much the substance of daily life as rice and shrimp sauce. Quan's dreams offer a shift in tone to high flown and emotive language, but the tedium of attritional conflict evoked by Quan's plodding quests is not reflected in readerly boredom.
As Quan labours through landscapes of irresistable, soul-nourishing though often melancholic beauty, so the reader is led along a channel of sweetness and sadness that compels empathy, attention, hunger for the next day, the next journey, the next dream. As Quan finds the strength to live, I grew stronger myself. I found his relationships crowding into my heart. Every interaction had, I felt, an ease and tenderness totally absent in my culture from all but the tightest sibling bonds. If my people are to make ourselves whole, I thought, we must learn to speak to each other like this.
Perhaps it's just me. My brother knows how. I have been thinking critically about the violence in the language of book reviews and the synopsis of this edition here is a case in point. I was not pierced or shattered by this book, rather I was embraced by it, engulfed if you must, but gently: a sister grasped my hand while she told me a necessary tale in her kind, sorrow roughened voice. She helped me to see and hear what I had lived blind and deaf to, and I thank her and wish her peace. Jul 27, Jimmy rated it liked it Shelves: novel , female , poc , and-a-half-stars , years , sow , vietnam.
I don't think I've ever read a war novel, other than The Red Badge of Courage , and that was only because it was required reading for school. It simply does not interest me. But here I thought I'd give this one a chance, since it was written by a Vietnamese woman, i. I remember ripping the [Communist] Party newspaper into shreds and throwing them into a stream. I never told anyon I don't think I've ever read a war novel, other than The Red Badge of Courage , and that was only because it was required reading for school.
I never told anyone, of course. It was then that I realized that lies are common currency among men, and that the most virtuous are those who have no scruples about resorting to them. Since then, I've stopped reading newspapers, let alone bulletins from the front. I understood how those who didn't know this still felt joy, just as I understand their lust for victories, their fervor for drawing lines between true and false.
Blindness gave them such extraordinary energy. He's already telling his men things they want to hear while knowing in his heart the dark truth. From there, the novel is a series of hazy episodes, not novelistic at all in that there was no story arc--but this I found to be a strength. There was none of that fake structure placed on it to suggest any kind of closure is even possible. At first I was not sure what to make of the title Novel Without a Name.
But then I realized that a name is an attachment. Once you name something, a pet, a baby, a vehicle, you start to get attached. Perhaps the name of this novel without a name is just that—an attempt to not be human.
An attempt to distance oneself from the emotions that we would otherwise feel if we were human. An attempt to not hurt. This was a good book. Don't let the mediocre star rating fool you, I enjoyed it more than I think I could have enjoyed any war novel. Sep 19, Nick rated it it was amazing. The war for national unification--one hesitates to call it liberation, since the bulk of the novel takes place after the Americans have withdrawn--narrated by a Northern veteran.
Quan, having enlisted as a patriotic eighteen year old, reflects on the changes that ten years of war and violence has inflicted on his country and his life. He finds many of the same issues that the American soldiers experienced during their service and after their return: a self-serving command structure blinded by id The war for national unification--one hesitates to call it liberation, since the bulk of the novel takes place after the Americans have withdrawn--narrated by a Northern veteran.
He finds many of the same issues that the American soldiers experienced during their service and after their return: a self-serving command structure blinded by ideology, post-traumatic stress, friendly fire, and, most devastating of all, loss of faith. Sent on a mission to his village, a family shattered, a loved one beyond estrangement. But this is Quan's own country, so survival does not lead to escape, and winning is not triumphant: even as it drives toward victory, the North deploys a lonely woman whose only job is to gather the corpses of its soldiers and a brigade for the sole task of making coffins.
The prose of Duong Thu Huong, the justly celebrated Vietnamese novelist, is at least in this translation spare and unsentimental, as befits a soldier who is moving, to borrow the title of one of her other novels, beyond illusions. And yet there are moments where the prose, for all its devastating clarity, pierces: "'Don't breathe a word--to anyone. These days relatives spy against relatives, like jackals.
Even their faces have changed. These aren't human faces anymore,'" Quan is told. Later he tells one of his soldiers, "'I am afraid there is going to come a time when no one will want to say anything to anyone anymore But not beyond. Mar 19, Sentimental Surrealist rated it really liked it Shelves: who-are-you-calling-paranoid , everything-i-wanted , ghosts-goblins-those-guys , duong-thu-huong , rating-too-low. But how many of us have experienced a piece of art that told Vietnam's story from the Vietnamese perspective?
Duong Thu Huong seeks to give the country a voice with this novel, and oh does she succeed in the most horrifying way imaginable. This novel is often compared with All Quiet on the Western Front , and like that novel, this is a largely unstructured and plotless novel, to fit alongside the idea of war as a dull, grueling thing. It isn't even divided into chapters, preferring instead to take the form of several brief episodes ranging in length from a few paragraphs to a few pages. Throughout these episodes, emphasis is placed on the complete debasement and loss of innocence the war has wreaked on those who fight it.
Much is made throughout the novel of fighting the war for the sake of glory, but there isn't much glory to be found here. So that's one reason for me to love this novel. I hate the idea of war, and can only think of three even remotely justifiable wars America has participated in: World War II is obvious, and I see both the American Revolution and the Civil War as inevitable; even then, I'm convinced America committed a few crimes over the course of the Second World War the atomic bomb springs to mind that don't fully bear out our reputation as the glorious heroes of that war.
What pushes this novel up to the top for me, besides it matching with my own beliefs and several beautiful passages "On the banks the lush green foliage gently rippled. The paddles lapped monotonously at the water, in cadence" is the treatment of the characters. With the minimal physical description they're offered and the emphasis on their past, they seem to appear and disappear like ghosts, resulting in several fascinating exchanges about ideology and the nature of war.
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Check this out. View 2 comments. Jan 16, Andrew added it Shelves: southeast-asian-fiction. Vietnam might have been the war that signaled the end of Ame Why I think this might be the finest piece of Vietnam War fiction I've ever read, even better than the fine accounts given by Tim O'Brien and Bao Ninh, and a ready rival to that of Denis Johnson. Vietnam might have been the war that signaled the end of America's age of innocence, but it was the war that defined the very existence of the Vietnamese nation.
For an entire nation to be colonized, cut in half along Cold War lines, and then bathed in blood for two decades, well, that does things to a culture. Quan, the protagonist, is honest and cynical and deathly afraid and wandering the ravaged hills of Vietnam, trying to reconcile the lyrical, village world of his childhood with the world he inhabits. And, unlike the Americans, for him there is not even the hope of an escape route. Jun 19, Windy hapsari rated it it was amazing. I read this book is like a thousand time.
I always have negative opinion about army or soldier, but maybe in the war situation those soldier return to their main function. Mar 07, Ronald Morton rated it really liked it Shelves: vietnamese , read-in , by-women , in-translation. How proud we were of our youth! Ten years ago, the day we left for the front, I had never imagined this.
All we had wanted was to be able to sing songs of glory. Who cared about mortars, machine guns, mines, bayonets, daggers? Anything was good for killing, as long as it brought us glory We pulled the trigger, we shot, we hacked away, intoxicated by hatred; we demanded equality with our hatred. The primary events of this novel take place in the last year of the conflict between North and South V How proud we were of our youth!
The primary events of this novel take place in the last year of the conflict between North and South Vietnam. Further, it is important to note that this novel is specifically and distinctly Vietnamese — with one brief exception — the Americans all Westerners are long gone by the events of this novel, and are basically never mentioned, even in the flashbacks. In many ways this reads like a standard war narrative; setting aside some cultural specifics, large passages of this novel could be read and interpreted to be about many other battles and wars.
There is a universality to the proceedings, to the fears, to the anguish, to the long interminable grind of war that ties this into the long and storied tradition of the war novel. And yet, again, it is deeply personal and specific to the Vietnamese perspective. There is a long stretch where the protagonist travels across the country, ruminating over his 10 years of war, running into friends and acquaintances of his childhood and early war days, and eventually returning home. In this we are privy to the destruction and depravation — of infrastructure, of families, of philosophy, of culture — that decades of war inflicts.
More than anything though, even with that focus on the high level destruction, the book is intimately focused on the psychological impact of war, of the constant assault on the psyche, and the loss of youth and innocence — as a society and as an individual — that cannot be reclaimed. We never forget anything, never lose anything, never exchange anything, never undo what has been.